Feature Article

March 24, 2014

Prototype Smartphone Alleviates LTE Networks by Operating Through TV Whitespace

Mobile devices are simply becoming a fact of life these days, but more people checking their email and browsing the Web on mobile devices means that data networks are placing an increased strain on the data networks that provide them.

Looking for a new solution for transferring data and cellular services efficiently and without slowing down existing networks is, therefore, paramount to mobile companies, and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) may have found the answer:  a smartphone that is able to read LTE data broadcasted over TV whitespace, reducing overcapacity on existing networks.

TV whitespace is a term used to refer to the unused broadcasting spectrum of radio waves that formerly sent television to “rabbit ears” on a television. A good way to picture it is to imagine all of the unused “channels” that are no longer broadcasting, and re-appropriating their radio spectrum to transmit other kinds of data, like wireless LTE services. With more consumers switching to cable television or eschewing their TV service entirely in favor of Internet-based services, more of these channels are opening up for use, along with the unused space between existing channel spectrums. Other groups have debated using the whitespace for various other services, including large Wi-Fi networks.

The NICT smartphone uses two SIM card slots: one for LTE TV whitespace, and the other to utilize traditional commercial LTE networks. The device is able to seamlessly transition between the two LTE systems to use whichever service has lower traffic, and thus higher data speeds.

According to Dr. Hiroshi Harada, director of NIOCT’s Smart Wireless Laboratory, “By combining this smartphone with whitespace database-connected base stations (eND-B) we have already developed, we can increase LTE spectrum without causing interference with incumbent systems in the TV band, which means we can use the spectrum more efficiently and effectively.”

He went on to add, “We believe our development of this smartphone will contribute to the global development of LTE systems that utilize TV whitespace.”

Edited by Alisen Downey

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